It’s a quickfire double for Fiorentina. Moments after announcing the capture of 18-year-old Bulgarian centerback Petko Hristov, the Viola have also revealed that they’ve snagged winger Rafik Zekhnini from Odds Bk as well. The Tuscans have paid €1.5 million for the 19-year-old Norwegian and have promptly signed him to a 5-year contract.
We’ve been hearing rumblings about a Zekhnini signing for a couple of weeks or so now, so this just caps a fortnight of anticipation. While some Norwegian fans are dismissive of him due to his lapses in judgement, we (and a number of other analysts) see a player who could be on the cusp of stardom, citing his pace, dribbling technique, and vision. At worst, he’s probably a younger, cheaper version of Cristian Tello with a lot more upside.
Where he fits into the side remains to be seen. He’s almost certainly not ready to make a major impact; after all, this is his first club outside Odds, where he’s been since he was a schoolboy, and it could take him some time to get settled into a new country, a new team, and a new style of play. If he’s expected to start opposite Federico Chiesa from the word go, we could be in trouble. If another winger arrives and allows Rafik to come along slowly, either as an impact substitute or out on loan, we’ll feel a lot better about this whole thing.